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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraq's Failing Power Grid Creating Water Shortage

APA girl carrying water in Baghdad.
BAGHDAD -- Iraq's power grid is on the brink of collapse because of insurgent sabotage, rising demand, fuel shortages and provinces that are unplugging local power stations from the national grid, officials have said.

Iraqi Electricity Ministry spokesman Aziz al-Shimari said Saturday that power generation nationally is only meeting half the demand and that there had been four nationwide blackouts over the past two days. The shortages across the country are the worst since the summer of 2003, he said.

Power supplies in Baghdad have been sporadic all summer and now are down to just a few hours a day, if that. The water supply in the capital has also been severely curtailed by power blackouts and cuts that have affected pumping and filtration stations.

Karbala province, south of Baghdad, has been without power for three days, causing water mains to go dry in the provincial capital, the Shiite holy city of Karbala.

"We no longer need television documentaries about the Stone Age. We are actually living in it. We are in constant danger because of the filthy water and rotten food we are having," Karbala clothing vendor Hazim Obeid said.

Electricity shortages are a perennial problem in Iraq, even though it sits atop one of the world's largest crude oil reserves. The national power grid became decrepit under Hussein because his regime was under United Nations sanctions after the Gulf War and had trouble buying spare parts or equipment to upgrade the system.

The power problems are only adding to the misery of Iraqis, already suffering from the effects of more than four years of war and sectarian violence. Outages make life almost unbearable in the summer months, when average daily temperatures can reach 49 degrees Celsius.

One of the biggest problems facing the national grid is the move by provinces to disconnect their power plants from the system, reducing the overall amount of electricity being generated for the entire country. Provinces say they have no choice because they are not getting as much electricity in return for what they produce, mainly because the capital requires so much power.

"Many southern provinces such as Basra, Diwaniyah, Nassiriyah, Babil have disconnected their power plants from the national grid. Northern provinces ... are doing the same," Shimari said. "We have absolutely no control over some areas in the south."